Ottawa Family Fun

About five years ago, I was taking my in-laws on a tour of the Rideau Canal. We watched a pair of skaters zoom by us, pushing some sort of wood contraptions on skis. I was immediately fascinated, and later that evening my father-in-law and I perused various sources with plans to build your own kick sled. Nothing ever came of it, but I never forgot my curiousity, and it was sparked (that’s a pun, by the way) all over again when a friend posted that she had received a kicksled for Christmas and she posted a link to the site in Quebec from which it had been ordered. I had to wait about two weeks for them to come back in stock (coming as they do on a boat from Finland) and another week for my new toy to make its way from the vendor to me.

Last May, I impulsively bought a kayak, slightly worrying that I might try it once or twice and that it would then take up space in the garage forever. It turned out to be my favourite toy ever, and I kayaked happily two and three times a week from May through November. Turns out the same mojo was at play with the kicksled. I was a little concerned buying one without ever having tried it, but from the moment I stepped on to it, I was in love.

kicksled on ottawa trail

So what’s a kick sled, or maybe it’s kicksled, or as they’re called in their native Scandinavian countries, a spark? (See, that’s the pun I made earlier!) It’s the love child of a scooter and cross-country skis, and looks a lot like a dog sled in search of a dog – in fact, you can buy dog harnesses should you wish to skijorn. You stand on one long runner and kick with the other leg a few times, then glide and shift. It’s a terrific workout, and a lot less intimidating than cross-country skis. If the sled is going too fast, or the hill is steep, or you’re worn out and need a break, just step off and walk. What’s interesting is that I have weak knees and complainy ankles and hips, and although I walk at least 30 minutes each day, any more than that and my knees and hips tend to ache. However, I can easily kicksled for 6 or 8 km with nary an issue.

kicksled mini video

This pandemic winter has been, by sheer chance, a great one to learn to kicksled. The trails are often compacted as soon as the snow stops falling. (Ideal conditions for a kicksled are hard packed to icy snow, or a very fine powder. Deep powder slows it down, as does even the tinest bit of road salt or sand.) I tend to go out very early in the morning to miss the crowds, but the kicksled is easily manoueverable to share the trail. Unfortunately, like kayaks and other personal watercraft were in summer 2020, they’re also very hard to come by. There aren’t a lot of kicksled vendors around – buying online from Quebec seemed to be my only option.

So two or three times a week for the three weeks or so that I’ve had it, I’ve been out exploring the amazing wonderland that is Ottawa’s winter trail network. There’s a dearth of information on kicksledding in Ottawa, so I thought I’d share that as I find it, too. People are fascinated by the spark – I’ve yet to go out that I haven’t been stopped at least once, sometimes three or four times, by curious folk who want to know what it is and where to get one. I’m beginning to think I could fund the college educations of all three kids just by dragging a few extra sparks behind me when I go out and selling them to curious onlookers. At the very least, I should probably be getting a commission from goslide.ca for the number of people I send their way. (Not an affiliate link yet, but if you’re from GoSlide, let’s talk! :D) The brand of kicksled I have is the ESLA, made using traditional methods in Finland for generations.

If you’d like to know more, this site has a great deal of information about kick sled history. Kicksleds are very common in Norway, Finland and Sweden, where they are used like we use bicycles – to run errands, to explore, to get out of the house. They’re creeping into North American pop culture, where the Netflix series Home for Christmas featured a woman zipping about on her kicksled, and the movie Kicksled Choir was recently nominated for an Oscar.

So hey, between posting about my summer kayak adventures and winter kicksled adventures, there may be life in this old blog yet! If there’s enough interest, I was thinking about setting up an Ottawa Kicksled group on Facebook or Reddit to share info, trails, resources, etc. If you’re interested, let me know your preferred platform and I’ll set it up.


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It’s been a weird summer, hasn’t it? Thanks to COVID, we didn’t do half as many little day trips and family adventures as we usually do, though I am grateful that my pre-teen and teenagers are generally willing to still come along for the occasional day trip. We love small towns and have been to Perth, Almonte, Carleton Place, Prescott, Kemptville, Carp — and somehow, we have up until this summer completely overlooked Brockville. Please allow me to share our rave review of our simple but wonderful day trip to Brockville.

Marina

We started with fish and chips from Don’s take-out window. We’ve been looking for good fish and chips in or near Ottawa for years, and this is easily the best we’ve had since the Black Dog Café closed their take-out window. We took ours a block or so to Hardy Park and sat on benches on the boardwalk, enjoying the river view but not the bees. So! Many! Bees! Definitely worth both the trek and the bee sting on Beloved’s hand, though.

Fish and chips

After that, we wandered over to the Aquatarium for our scheduled tour. I was really impressed with the way they managed everything with respect to COVID. We really haven’t gone out much at all since the pandemic started, and though I was a little twitchy at first being led around in a small group with three other families, the guide was clearly cognizant of social distancing and did a great job of managing the group, and a cleaner trailed behind us wiping surfaces as we passed. Our guide Alex also added a lot of value with her stories and narration. We had a Groupon, so if you can snag one it makes the admission even more reasonable.

Otter!

We loved (LOVED!) the otters, and the beaver (Justin Beaver, natch) and other sea creatures were quite cool, too. Four of us have been playing Animal Crossing rather obsessively this summer, so we were amused to see so many of the critters from the game live in the Aquatarium: welks, sea stars, urchins, sea snails, turtles, sturgeon, pike, and blue gills. If your kids (or you!) love Animal Crossing, it’s worth it for the otters alone!

fish at the aquatarium

Our tour took maybe 75 or 90 minutes, and I genuinely enjoyed all of it. However, the real hit of the afternoon was the Brockville Railway Tunnel. It’s only a block or so walk from the Aquatrium (which itself is only a block from Don’s fish and chips and two blocks from the park – everything is so convenient!) to Canada’s oldest railway tunnel (constructed between 1854 and 1860), which has been converted to a fun tourist attraction. As you walk the 525m tunnel, light shows play around you. My snap-and-insta-loving teen was in selfie heaven, and we took a few shots that will make great cover art when the band drops our first album. I really did not expect them (or me) to be as entertained as we were, and it’s completely free.

Being on the St Lawrence seaway, Brockville is also just a lovely little town. We finished our visit with ice cream on the boardwalk and another little wander along the water. We didn’t even have time to visit the shops of the quaint downtown that reminds of me of the many villages of my southern Ontario childhood. We’ll visit those when we go back, because we all agreed that Brockville is a new family-favourite day trip destination.


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Have you checked out the newly renovated and freshly amazing Canada Science and Technology Museum lately? We went last week on an adventure to celebrate my birthday, including a stop at the special Leonardo da Vinci exhibit and it. was. AWESOME!

Ottawa’s Science and Tech museum has always been one of our favourite places to while away a Sunday morning. You might remember that it closed in 2014 due to mould and structural issues, and somehow we missed getting back into our routine of regular visits after the grand re-opening in 2017. It was great to see old family favourites (Simon in particular spoke with great fondness of the famous Crazy Kitchen) and the locomotives, but the whole museum feels fresh and new and full of things to discover.

You could say Lucas flipped over it!

Photo of a child upside down in a classroom

If you’re looking for something to do in the waning days of your summer vacation, I can’t recommend the special travelling Leonardo da Vinci exhibit highly enough. I thought I knew a lot about da Vinci – I knew he was of course the painter of some of the world’s most highly regarded paintings, like the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, and I knew he dabbled in science and math. I understood that he contributed to massive leaps in the understanding of the human form, architecture and technology, and yet I never really understood the scope of his genius until we spent an hour submersed in this exhibit. It’s a wonderfully modern presentation (give yourself time to sit and enjoy the multimedia SENSORY4 immersive experience) that was as fascinating for me (eager to learn but by no means knowledgeable) as it was for Beloved with his degree in fine arts, and all three kids with their very different appetites and attitudes enjoyed it as well.

I’m sure we’re one of the last families in Ottawa to finally return to this amazing local treasure. The kids did admit that they missed the old fibre optic crawling tubes, but that the new permanent exhibits more than made up for it.

Child playing with gears at Canada Science and Technology Museum

Have you been yet? What did you think?

If you go:
Canadian Science and Technology Museum
1867 St Laurent Blvd, Ottawa, ON
Leonardo da Vinci exhibit ends September 2, 2019; additional fees apply.


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Dust off your jingle bells, dig out your Santa hat and strap on your reindeer antlers! Welcome to one of my favourite holiday traditions, the original and most comprehensive listing of all the Christmas, Holiday and Santa Claus parades for Ottawa, Eastern Ontario and West Quebec.

Photo of Santa Claus at the Christmas parade 2013

Sometimes the parade season sneaks up on me, but with the few light flurries we’ve already had, I feel like I’m ready for the holiday fun to begin. Did you know that this post annual post is officially a teenager now? I almost didn’t compile the list this year, but after thirteen (!) years, I didn’t feel like I could stop now! Take a close look at the details – I noticed a lot of parades moving from a traditional week or day of the week, and lots of route changes for this year, too. There are more than 20 parades crammed into one three-week period!

Here’s all the info I could scare up about the 2018 Ottawa, Eastern Ontario and West Quebec Santa Claus and Christmas parade line-up, in chronological order:

Kanata Santa Claus Parade
Saturday November 17, 2018 at 10:00 am (note the change to day of the week and time versus previous years!) The parade begins at Terry Fox and Castlefrank and proceeds Castlefrank to Abbeyhill Drive and on to Hazeldean Mall. Food and money will be collected by volunteer firefighters along the route for the Kanata Food Cupboard. Join Santa at the mall after the parade!

Ottawa Help Santa Toy Parade
Saturday, November 17 starting at 11:00 am. The parade starts at Ottawa City Hall and moves west on Laurier Avenue to Bank Street, then follows Bank Street south to TD Place. New toys (no used toys, please) and cash donations will be collected by the Ottawa Firefighters.

Cornwall Santa Claus Parade
Saturday November 17, starting at 5:00 pm. The parade will run from St. Lawrence Intermediate School, 1450 Second Street East. It will then proceed west. The theme for the parade is “Christmas Movies.” Join us afterwards for Santa’s Street Hockey Challenge!

Petawawa Santa Claus Parade
Sunday November 18, 2018 at 1:00 pm. Parade departs from the Wolfe Plaza. The parade will then travel along Mohns Avenue, Doran Road, Herman Street to Murphy Road and terminate in the Civic Centre parking.

Barrhaven Lions Club Light Up the Night Santa Claus Parade
Sunday, November 18, starting at 5:30 pm. (Note the change back to Sunday this year!) The parade runs down Strandherd Drive, starting at Beatrice Drive and ending at the park n ride, where it turns north for dispersal. Please remember to bring non perishable food items or cash donations for the Barrhaven Food Cupboard.

Kemptville Kinsmen Santa Parade
Saturday, November 24 starting at 5:00 pm – note late afternoon start time. Parade Leaves Kemptville College Parking Lot (Stinson Rd lot), from College Rd turns right on Concession road, turns left onto Clothier Street then left onto Prescott Street. Parade ends at Holy Cross School. The theme is “North Pole Fantasy.”

Brockville Santa Claus Parade
Saturday, November 24, starting at 5:00 pm. The parade is in the evening again this year with a theme of “Light Up Christmas. The parade will be marshalled along North Augusta Road from Pearl Street to Reynolds Road using the street and various parking lots.

Carleton Place Santa Parade
Saturday, November 24 starting at 5:00 pm. Wear red and white, bring your food donation with you. This year’s parade theme is ‘A Christmas Carol’.

Pembroke Santa Claus Parade of Lights
Saturday, November 24 starting at 5:30 pm. This winter, we will be celebrating the most exciting moments and traditions of Christmas Morning. The Santa Claus Parade of Lights will transform Downtown Pembroke into a joyous commemoration of the Christmas season. The parade will begin at Moncion Metro and end at Festival Hall.

Arnprior Santa Claus Parade
Saturday, November 24, starting at 6:00 pm. The Arnprior Santa Claus Parade will leave Winners circle at 6 pm. It will head down Daniel St turning left on Eady St and then right onto John St South. It will continue down John St South and turn right onto Madawaska Blvd. and then right again back onto Daniel St.

Orleans Parade of Lights
Saturday, November 24, starting at 6:00 pm. Once again the Ottawa Professional Firefighters Association will be hosting Santa’s Parade of Lights on St-Joseph Blvd. in Orleans. Toy and cash donations will be collected by firefighters along the route.

Gananoque Santa Parade
Saturday, November 24, starting at 7:00 pm. (Note later start time.) The Gananoque BIA is proud to host the annual Santa Claus Parade. The parade will begin at Gananoque & Intermediate Secondary School and head downtown along King Street making it’s final turn on Park Street.

Clarence Rockland Santa Claus Parade
Sunday, November 25, starting at 4:30 pm. The route will be the same as last year, starting on Héritage Rd. and ending at the Knights of Columbus hall.

Constance & Buckham’s Bay Santa Claus Parade
Saturday, December 1, starting at 10:00 am (note earlier start time.) Don’t miss the annual CBBCA Constance & Buckhams Bay Santa Claus Parade; floats gather on Baillie Ave. Parade runs along Bayview to Len Purcell and winds up at the community centre for hots dogs, Santa, and hot chocolate. Be sure to check out the Christmas Market & Craft Fair. Bring your non-perishable food item for the West Carleton Food Bank.

Merrickville Christmas Parade
Saturday, December 1, starting at 11:00 am. The annual Merrickville Santa Claus Parade, hosted by the Merrickville Volunteer Fire Department Association, will make its way up St. Lawrence Street starting at 11:00am.

Manotick Christmas Parade
Saturday, December 1, starting at 1:00 pm. Parade runs from the Manotick Arena and then south down Manotick Main Street. This is our favourite of the season! 😉

Perth and District Santa Claus Parade of Lights
Saturday, December 1, starting at 5:00 pm. The annual SANTA CLAUS PARADE OF LIGHTS makes its way through Downtown Heritage Perth. Starting on Sunset Blvd. at 5pm, the parade of lights will travel south through town (Wilson to Gore), turning onto Cockburn Street and ending at Queen Elizabeth School. The parade always ends with a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus on the last float!

Renfrew Santa Claus Parade
Saturday, December 1, starting at 5:30 pm. Parade will start at Bonnechere St South and Munroe Ave West. It will end at Opeongo Road and Raglan Street South.

Stittsville Parade of Lights
Saturday, December 1 starting at 6:00 pm. The parade will proceed along its usual route south on Stittsville Main Street, from just south of Hazeldean Road to Carleton Cathcart Street. Each year, dozens of beautifully decorated community floats set the tone for Santa’s much anticipated arrival at the end of the parade. Merry makers are also encouraged to stay for the lighting of Village Square Park, our new Christmas Market in Village Square Park (5 pm to 9 pm), and to share in some hot chocolate, cookies, and a visit with Santa.

Aylmer / Gatineau Santa Claus Parade
Saturday, December 1, starting at 6:00 pm. A tradition that goes back several years, this light-filled parade that departs from the Aylmer marina and attracts crowds from the entire region.

Hawkesbury Santa Claus Parade
Saturday, December 1, starting at 7 pm. Visit with Santa and some Hawkesbury’s associations while enjoying the parade that will start on James Street, will continue along Main Street and will finish at Hamilton Street.

Casselman Santa Claus Parade
Sunday, December 2 starting at 5:30pm. Route: Starting at the Laflêche boulevard, Isabelle street, St-Isidore street West, Percy street, Dollard street to finish on Principale Street South.We encourage all participants to make a donation of can foods or others to be used for Christmas baskets. (A truck will be at the start of the parade to collect donations.)

Osgoode Christmas in the Village
Friday December 7, starting at 7 pm. Parade route is from Osgoode Main St and Nixon Rd along Osgoode Main St to Stuart Holmes Arena. On Saturday, December 8, celebrate the festive spirit and join the Osgoode Co-operative Nursery School for their 26th annual Breakfast with Santa at the Osgoode Community Centre. Enjoy a delicious pancake breakfast and while you are there, do some Christmas shopping at their popular Silent Auction featuring a display of various local products.

Carp Santa Claus Parade
Saturday, December 8, starting at 12:00 pm. The route starts at The Diefenbunker – 3911 Carp Road and follows Carp Road, turning left onto Donald B. Munro, left onto Langstaff Drive, left on Juanita Avenue and right on Carp Road, finishing at the Diefenbunker. (Note route change: This is the opposite of last year’s route. The parade will be going all the way down Carp Road first.)

Pakenham Santa Claus Parade
Saturday, December 8, starting at 1:00 pm. Don’t miss Santa’s favourite event with the Pakenham Santa Claus Parade! Pack a thermos of hot chocolate and head to downtown Pakenham for an old-fashioned, festive parade.

Missing this year: At the time of publication in early November, I wasn’t able to find information about Richmond, Smiths Falls, Embrun, Almonte, Eganville or Metcalfe this year. If you have any information about these communities or others not mentioned above, please let me know and I’ll update the post throughout the season.

holly border

And don’t fret if you can’t make it to the parade – how about one of these other fun family events with a holiday theme in our region?

Barrhaven Breakfast with Santa

The morning of the Barrhaven Santa Claus parade, Sunday November 18, bring the kids for a breakfast with Santa at Mother Theresa High School. Seatings at 8:00 and 9:30.

Magic of Lights Drive-Through at Wesley Clover Park
November 16, 2018 through January 5, 2019. This magical event, that has quickly become a holiday tradition for many Ottawa residents and visitors, is composed of lighted displays celebrating the joy of the holidays. A “drive through” experience from the comfort of your own car, at every turn and in every direction the route is overflowing with spectacular light displays and animations. New attractions in 2018 will include “Candy Cane Lane”, a 200-foot animated Candy Cane celebration, as well as an all new twinkling “Snowflake Forest.”

The Vintage Village of Lights
Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from November 30 to December 2, 2018, 3 pm to 8 pm at the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum. There’s holiday cheer to share with family, friends, and loved ones of all ages at the Vintage Village of Lights! Our 1920s and 30s village is illuminated to set a picture-perfect scene as you explore the festive touches, decorations, and embellishments that have been a part of Christmas traditions through the years. As you enjoy your stroll around the Village, be sure to check out some of the fun activities we have planned including: decorating gingerbread; taking a horse-drawn wagon ride; receiving a Santagram; printing a greeting card; personalizing a wooden tree ornament; a site-wide advent calendar; and more. And, of course, don’t forget to say hi to Santa!

2018 Canadian Pacific Holiday Train
The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train hits the rails again in November, visiting over 150 communities. Since the program’s inception back in 1999, more than $7.4 million and over 3 million pounds of food has been collected in Canada and the United States. At each event, the Holiday Train provides a box car stage, a line up of great musical talents and a corporate contribution to the local food bank. The community, in turn, is encouraged to donate food and funds, all of which stays in the community. Local stops include Finch, Merrickville, Smiths Falls and Perth on November 28 and then Trenton, Belleville and Brighton on November 29. Check the holiday train schedule for more details.

Canadian Museum of History Tree Lighting Ceremony: Thursday, November 29
Thursday, November 29 at 6 p.m. Invite your family, friends and colleagues to count down to the lighting of the tree. Enjoy Christmas carols by la Chorale 7e-8e, from secondary school De La Salle’s Centre d’excellence artistique de l’Ontario, along with complimentary Beaver Bites and hot chocolate (while quantities last). You can also take the opportunity to visit the Museum’s Christmas Market, which opens the same day in the Grand Hall and will be open until 8 p.m. Note that the activities will take place outside, so please dress accordingly.

Upper Canada Village: Alight at Night
Bundle up for an evening stroll through this picture-perfect postcard setting! With close to one million lights adorning the heritage buildings, trees and fences of Upper Canada Village creating a one-of-a-kind magical backdrop for its annual Alight at Night Festival…a true winter wonderland! Times and dates vary, starting November 30 through January 5, so check the link for details. New this year: don’t miss the 1965 carousel of prancing horses that young visitors can ride!

Manotick’s Olde Fashioned Christmas
Saturday December 1 and Sunday December 2. The Village is transformed into a Village of Yesteryear. There will be a Victorian Tea and Penny Sale, horse-drawn wagon rides, pictures with Santa, face painting, strolling carollers and more.

Christmas Tree Lighting at the National Gallery of Canada
Tuesday December 4, 2018. Free admission from 5 pm to 8 pm, tree lighting at 6:30 pm in the Scotiabank Great Hall. All are welcome to enjoy special treats and activities, such as making a spinning snowflake ornament to decorate your tree, in-gallery sketching, watch Christmas movies in the auditorium, listen to the melodies of Stellae Boreales (and sing along to your holiday favourites) and enjoy a ride aboard VIA Rail’s Christmas Mini Train on the outdoor Plaza. See link above for more details and activities.

Christmas Lights Across Canada: December 5, 2018 to January 7, 2019
The 34th edition of Christmas Lights Across Canada will kick off with an official illumination ceremony on Wednesday, December 5, 2018 at 7 pm. Every night from December 5 to January 7, enjoy the Magical Winter Lightscapes multimedia show projected on the Parliament Hill buildings. People of all ages will get into the holiday spirit as hundreds of thousands of dazzling lights shine in Canada’s Capital Region and across the country.

If I’ve missed anything, or if you’d like to share information about your family-friendly Ottawa Christmas or Holiday event, please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me at hello(a)danigirl(dot)ca and I’d be happy to add them to this (now epic!) post.

How many parades will YOU attend this year?


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If you’re looking for a wonderful little spot to bring the family for lunch and a lovely view of the intersection of Ottawa’s two rivers, we had a really lovely lunch one summer afternoon at Ottawa’s new Tavern on the Falls.

Ottawa family fun: Tavern on the Falls

It might have been because it was a Monday, or because the sky was threatening rain, or because it was mid afternoon, but we had the place pretty much to ourselves.

Ottawa family fun: Tavern on the Falls

It’s a cousin to Tavern on the Hill, in Majors Hill Park. It’s a little tricky to find the first time. It’s tucked behind the Royal Geographic Society building on Sussex Dr, right in between it and the falls where the Rideau river meets the Ottawa river. The menu is simple, with gourmet hot dogs and an assortment of pre-made salads and wraps. We were impressed with the options for the hot dogs.

Ottawa family fun: Tavern on the Falls

Ottawa family fun: Tavern on the Falls

(They are so different in almost every way, and yet every now and then I catch the family resemblance!)

There’s also what looks like a full service bar, but we weren’t there for drinks. We did, however, imbibe in some ice cream after our hot dogs. It was spitting a bit as we finished lunch, but the umbrellas provided enough cover to keep us dry. In fact, it was a little hard to tell the difference between the sprinkles and the spray from the falls.

Ottawa family fun: Tavern on the Falls

It’s a lovely area to wander, not too far from Rideau Hall. We didn’t make it that far, but we did poke around the falls a little bit, talking about how they’re the reason the Rideau Canal was built, and how Ottawa came to be settled because of them. Here’s the view of the restaurant from the other side of the falls.

Ottawa family fun: Tavern on the Falls

You can really see in this photo why they called these falls “Rideau” – which means curtain.

Ottawa family fun: Tavern on the Falls

We spent a lovely, lazy hour or so having hot dogs and ice cream and poking around the falls. I can imagine the sunset views are stunning, and plan to come back when the fall foliage turns colourful – won’t be long now! All in all, a lovely if not inexpensive lunch out with a gorgeous view, even on a rainy afternoon, and highly recommended.

If you go:
Tavern on the Falls is open from early morning (with Bridgehead coffee and Maverick’s doughnuts!) to late night, through the end of October, weather permitting. The street address is 1 John Street, but we found it by looking for the Royal Geographic Society and wandering around behind it.


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Every year on or around the first weekend in April, the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers host an open house. I don’t remember how exactly we heard about Oliver’s Mapleworks in particular, but they met my planning criteria of a fun family day out that would likely be a little less crowded than some of the larger local maple producers like Wheelers and Fulton’s, and within an easy hour’s drive.

Documentary photos of families day in the life by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

We had THE BEST time! It was a decent day for a ramble in the countryside, not quite spring warm (so not muddy) but not as windy or unpleasant as it has been the past few weeks. (Sidebar: has anyone seen spring? Please release it to the wild so we can all enjoy it!) We were immediately greeted by a friendly woman who engaged us right away, taking us on a tour of the maple condenser and extractor, and the reverse osmosis unit they use to further concentrate and purify the sap.

Documentary photos of families day in the life by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

I think she said they had a couple thousand trees tapped in a sugar bush that has been producing maple syrup since the early 1800s. (You’ll forgive me for any errors in fact or egregious speculation. I wasn’t taking notes!) Most Canadians can tell you that sap becomes syrup by boiling it until most of the water evaporates, but I thought it was pretty cool that they can use a condenser to remove up to 2/3 of the water before the boiling process even begins.

Documentary photos of families day in the life by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

The tour itself was fascinating – turns I don’t know half as much about maple syrup production as I thought I did. And it seems like being a maple farmer is a LOT of work – she said on days when the sap is running, they get started around 10 am (when it warms up enough for the sap to start flowing) and often don’t finish until after midnight or later. Oliver’s is definitely a family operation, and our visit felt warm and friendly like a family-run business, too.

After our tour, we sampled maple syrup, maple butter and my favourite, maple sugar. Did you know that they’re all basically the same thing, just with increasing amounts of water removed? And further, we learned that all maple syrup has a sugar content of 67%. The variations in colour from light to dark come from the sap itself and can change based on the time in the season when it’s drawn.

Documentary photos of families day in the life by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

After raising our own blood sugar levels to what felt like 67%, and after a delicious lunch of maple sausages with maple mustard on a bun and, I kid you not, maple coffee, we had a fun wagon ride with the owner and proprietor of the farm, Dave Oliver, who further educated and entertained us.

Portraits of your family at play by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

But what’s a farm visit without animals? There were miniature ponies, goats, and bunnies to greet.

Portraits of your family at play by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

Oh, and did I mention the free range chickens and five day old peeping chicks?

Portraits of your family at play by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

This was seriously one of my favourite family outings this year. The Olivers and their employees and helpers were charming and welcoming, and answered my endless questions patiently. (Yes, I am still that curious nine year old with my hand in the air. Some things never change.) There are more than a dozen maple producers open to the public in Lanark County alone, but I’d have a hard time imagining any of them putting on a better family day out than Oliver’s Maple Works. It looks from their website that they’re open for visits but “please contact us by phone or email if you are planning to visit us so that we can make arrangements to greet you.” It’s a drive we’ll definitely make again!

If you go:
Oliver’s Maple Works
158 Lakewood Lane, Perth, Ontario K7H 3C7
Phone: 613-264-8612
Email: tree.mapleworks@gmail.com


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Ho! Ho! Hooray for Holiday Parades, the 2017 edition!

7 November 2017 Ottawa Family Fun

Edited to add: Click this link for the 2018 Santa Claus and holiday parade info! Welcome to one of my favourite holiday traditions, the original and most comprehensive listing of all the Christmas, Holiday and Santa Claus parades for Ottawa, Eastern Ontario and West Quebec. It’s been a dozen (!!) years since our first holiday […]

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Tracking fall foliage in Ontario, Quebec and the USA

2 October 2017 Life in Ottawa

Now that it is October, the fiery reds, oranges and yellows of autumn are almost upon us! I think the fall colours are a little late this year, compared to other years. (One of many benefits of having an archive of thousands of photos taken in every season!) Whether you’re looking for a colourful foliage […]

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Ottawa’s Hidden Treasures: Secret suburban sand dunes

29 August 2017 Ottawa Family Fun

Did you know that there’s a 10,000 year old sand dune hiding in a pine forest in suburban Ottawa? Neat, right? The sand dune in the Pinhey Forest is an ancient remnant of the last ice age, when what we now know as Ottawa was submerged under the great Champlain Sea. Even 100 years ago, […]

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Ottawa Family Fun: MosaiCanada at Jacques Cartier Park

2 August 2017 Ottawa Family Fun

While La Machine might have been the most amazing street spectacle ever to visit Ottawa (no hyperbole here!) it’s not too late to visit Ottawa’s other fabulous FREE summer shows. If you’re into light shows, I hear Kontinuum and the Northern Lights show on Parliament Hill are both awesome, but we were blown away (again!) […]

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